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A new framework for HR in a “work from anywhere” economy

Global organizations need HR leaders with global intellect, acumen and agility if they're to make the best decisions for the workforce and company.

6 min read


A new framework for HR in a "work from anywhere" economy

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If the last 18 months have proven anything, it’s that any HR team can move to a remote-first model much faster than they (or anyone) thought.

Chief HR officers and HR professionals have also learned to rapidly scale up, or build from scratch, systems for managing, hiring and onboarding employees outside traditional office structures. That meant developing new policies, digitizing all operations and considering what a hybrid workforce would look like.

However, what businesses have also learned in the past year is that a “work from anywhere” approach is now the bare minimum. To gain a competitive edge in recruiting the best talent, corporate leaders and HR professionals must go beyond facilitating remote arrangements. As the employer-talent dynamic shifts toward worker empowerment, businesses must offer greater flexibility in work style, classification, compensation and value/mission-matching to win the global war for talent.

That means HR professionals should be looking beyond their city limits for talent that could be anywhere in the world. Their organizations should layer in technology to create a streamlined workflow for payroll and HR processes, no matter where employees are located or what languages they speak. And businesses should possess the technical ability and expertise to support working anywhere and a “work in any way” mindset.

A survey of HR, payroll and finance leaders from 200 companies found that organizations plan to have a much larger global footprint in the coming decade, highlighting the need for new HR and workforce technology designed for an evolving multinational environment.

That same study found that 80% of HR and payroll leaders believe that operating in different countries is vital to their company’s success. However, 75% of these leaders agreed that managing a global workforce can feel challenging, citing corporate culture issues, lack of employee skills, and disparate data as the most significant challenges to operating internationally. 

If emerging enterprises are to compete for talent in a global economy, they’ll need to rethink their approach to the HR skills, capabilities and technology required to operate in a global marketplace. And to enable their operations and talent to work in any, HR professionals will also need to apply a global fluency framework.

The 3 tenets of global fluency: intellect, acumen and agility

Global fluency is a framework for helping HR teams and growing organizations plan global growth, as well as hire and manage a global workforce.

Understanding that expanding into a specific country or region makes logistical sense isn’t enough. A globally fluent organization needs insight on how to recruit, employ and manage workers in that country, as well as document and integrate that knowledge across the organization. And, decision-makers need to have access and the ability to leverage that information — and any on-the-ground changes in a given region — in real time and at a moment’s notice.

That requires organizations to strengthen three central areas:

  1. Intellect, or what they know about hiring within a country
  2. Acumen, which is the ability to analyze and use that information to make strategic decisions
  3. Agility, or the ability to quickly respond to changes in the global market

Intellect: Getting the data

In the scope of hiring and managing an international workforce, intellect refers to how much an organization knows about its current and target markets and its current and target workforce.

Lack of local knowledge is a common problem for companies. Nearly 40% of organizations report a lack of information about what expansion entails as their main impediment to investing in global growth. The primary concern cited by HR and finance leaders about global expansion is a knowledge gap related to the political risk, compliance laws, and employment and tax regulations of countries they want to enter. As a result, they can’t capitalize on the available workforce talent or quickly enter new markets.

Closing that knowledge gap removes the impediment to expansion and growth. HR organizations can hire globally when they’re able to integrate differences in languages and customs into corporate culture and tools. Likewise, a company’s global growth is unlimited when HR teams can access knowledge about social and political norms or rapidly changing legislation around tax and employment law.

Acumen: Integrating the data

While country-specific information is essential, it’s not particularly useful without the ability to analyze that information to inform strategic decision-making. Nearly 40% of senior HR and finance leaders in this survey felt that a lack of technological capabilities was the primary barrier to successful expansion and international operation.

HR leaders must have the acumen to collect meaningful data, normalize it across all necessary languages, currencies and time zones, and then apply that data to inform decision-making across the organization.

For all that to happen, there must be an organizational structure to support the process. Also, appropriate technology must also be in place to bring global data together in a single, consistent view. In fact, 80% of senior HR and finance leaders surveyed said that the right technical tools and the ability to integrate data from all countries are the most critical factors to successfully expanding into new markets.

Agility: Adapting as data changes

The third and final tenet of global fluency is agility, which refers to the ability of a team to use both intellect and acumen to adapt. Even the most valuable data and the most thoughtful decision-making can only take an organization so far unless it can forecast market shifts, anticipate changes in the industry and respond quickly.

Only 32% of the HR and finance leaders surveyed said they use workforce data for strategic planning. In comparison, 45% said they engage in strategic analysis to model and proactively identify problems and solve them. When the very nature of work is being reassessed in many corners of the globe, strategically integrating workforce data and having the agility to act upon it is crucial.

Intellect, acumen and agility coalesce to make HR teams globally fluent, allowing them to move beyond supporting a “work from anywhere” bare minimum and adopt “work in any way” strategies that will impact their talent acquisition and retention processes for years to come.

Moreover, global fluency can help HR professionals hire proactively, reduce burnout and overwork, predict market shifts, allocate resources appropriately and streamline workforce-management processes.

Global fluency is not only a people-centric path to sustainability in a dynamic, multinational operating environment. It’s a prerequisite for global enterprises that want to win the war for talent and usher in the future of work. A globally fluent HR team isn’t just ready to support “work from anywhere” tactics; they are prepared to become the organization’s growth engine by recruiting the best possible talent for critical roles anywhere in the world.


Brian Dames is chief strategy and marketing officer at Safeguard Global. Dames has more than 25 years of experience in senior marketing and product roles, developing and executing the marketing strategies for both established and growing organizations. Dames’ expertise helps lead the brand, marketing and various strategic programs that support the growth of Safeguard Global.

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